Dean Pledges to Reconnect Politics to the Community

Just past noon on a brisk Saturday, Democratic front-runner and former Governor Howard Dean entered Marsh Lounge for an intimate press conference sponsored by the UVM College Democrats. The focus of the gathering was for Dean to announce that he would not be accepting public finance for his presidential campaign. Amid a vast range of supporters and press, candidate Dean called attention to the special interests of America’s economic elite. “We will not be intimidated by $2,000 donations,” expounded the Governor, in reference to President Bush’s wealthy contributors. The decision was bolstered by the previous day’s results of a 48-hour poll conducted over the internet, in which over 200,000 people voted by 85% to decline public funding for his campaign. It was a unique process for various reasons. Not only did Dean entrust this crucial element of his campaign to his supporters, he also reaffirmed the power of informal on-line campaigning. The recently approved McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Laws would have allowed matching federal funds for every dollar raised, provided that the campaign promised a spending limit of 50 million dollars. The current President has also chosen to decline public funding, having already nearly 55 of the projected 200 million to fund his reelection campaign. Bush has previously established a pattern of raising colossal amounts of money by sponsoring one-time high-end “suppers” throughout the country, where attendees donate $2000 – the maximum individual donation amount under the new campaign finance laws. In contrast, Governor Dean’s average donation has been $77. As of last week, Dean had raised nearly $26 million, clearly displaying the support he has overwhelmingly gained from working class citizens. In declining public funds, Dean pledged to reconnect politics to the community “for the benefit of all people.” To solidify that pledge, Dean and a small representative group of his supporters ceremoniously signed a “Declaration of Independence” from special interests and vowed to organize, fund, and finally vote the Governor into office themselves. “Our campaign is campaign finance reform” intoned Dean. Supported by quotes from Calvin Coolidge (the last Vermonter elected President), Thomas Jefferson and the pledges of Dean campaign volunteers, the Governor is asking his many supporters to make a sacrifice principled on returning the country to it’s core values, charging that they have strayed under the current administration. Each person who voted to decline federal funds has been asked to donate $100 before July – enough money for a one way bus ticket from D.C. to Crawford, Texas. And Howard Dean is serious. If the unrelenting support his followers have displayed continues, he stands in a formidable position to defeat the Bush campaign in 2004. -The Executive Board of UVM College Democrats